Turning to crime

A brief introduction to the sections, and summaries of all studies/theories

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Upbringing: Disrupted families

Attachment TheoryIf a child experiences maternal deprivation (bond is not formed or is broken), then the child is at risk of suffering a number of short and long term consequences

Study: Bowlby’s 44 Thieves 

  • 44 consecutive cases of children referred for theft were analysed. They were compared with 44 cases who were also referred to the clinic but did not steal. This control group allowed Bowlby to compare directly the characteristics of the children who stole and those who did not.
  • Aged 5-16 years old. At the clinic, each child had their IQ tested (which the 2 groups were then matched on), a social worker interviewed their parent’s to get a record of their early life. A psychiatrist conducted interviews with the child and the parent, This was repeated over time - LONGITUDIAL STUDY                                                  

 The findings:

17 out of 44 deliqeuents had been sperated from their mothers for some period before the age of 5.Maternal depreivation could affect the child's social-developments, causing juvenile delinquency.

‘Affectionless psychopathy’ was the extreme consequence of maternal deprivation. If the child failed to form an attachment with the mother, then it would group up unable to form relationships with other people.                    

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Upbringing: Learning from others

Intro: Crime is simply learned from others was a very radical notion.  However, Sutherland did not see criminal acts as particularly extreme – instead, he argued that criminal behaviour is learned in much the same way as any other behaviour is learned

 Study:Sutherland’s theory of differential association

  • Criminal behaviour is learned in interaction with others in a process of communication.
  • The principal part of the learning of criminal behaviour occurs within intimate personal groups.
  • When criminal behaviour is learned, the learning includes (a) techniques of committing the crime, which sometimes are very complicated and (b) the specific direction of motives, drives rationalisations and attitudes. 


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Upbringing: Disadvantaged neighbourhoods

Intro: Merton’s strain theory proposes that delinquent behaviour is often a result of not accepting that there are legitimate ways of achieving the goals put forward by the culture we live in (get a job, earn money, buy food etc).

Study:(wikstrom):PADS+, a 10-year study Its aim is to better understand situational influences on young people, namely how their families, schools and communities shape their social development.

Sample: 1957, 14-15 year olds from 13 state schools in the Peterborough area.

Method: Cross-sectional, snapshot study. the questionnaire study, followed up by a random sample of 339 who were interviewed about a week's activities which they had logged. Data on neighbourhood disadvantage obtained from the 1991 census.

Findings: Individual variables – PADS researchers found that weak morality and low self-control both predicted participants’ offending. Social environment – PADS researchers found that participants’ exposure to criminogenic environments Developmental effects –  family variables (e.g., family structure, family climate and family social position) and school variables (e.g., school bonds) 

Conclusions: People’s crime involvement depends on who they are and where they are.Situational Action Theory (SAT) which aims to explain how specific personal and enviro characteristics interact in influencing acts of crime. 

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Cognition: Criminal thinking patterns

Intro: Criminals need power and control, lack empathy, excessive optimism about criminal success, distorted perceptions of property etc. Self serving bias, success is internal, failure is external (i.e enviorment)

Hostile attribution: Percieving a non-threatning situation as hostile therefore responding to it as if it were threatening.

Study: Palmer and Hollin

To what extent do young offenders display the HA bias.

Sample: 97 convicted males, 77 non offenders aged 12-24

Procedure: Compared the groups results. They gave short scenarios and then asked why the protaginist would behave the way they did: to be nice, mean or not sure. The scenarios could be pro-socail, anti socail or ambigous.

Findings: Juvineile deliquents were slightly more likely to rate ambigious situations as hostile therefore demonstrating HA bias.

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Cognition: Moral developments

Stages of moral development: Level 1: Pre-morality 

Stage 1:Punishment and obediance Stage 2: Hedonistic

Level 2: Conventional morality 

Stage 3: Interpersonal concordance Stage 4: law and order

Level 3: Post-Conventional morality  

Stage 5: Social contract Stage 6: Universal ethical principles

KOHLBERG Sample: 75 boys from the USA over a 12 year period between the 50's and 60's

Procedure: Children were repeatedly presented with hyprothetical moral dilemmas-heinz dilemma (man couldnt afford cancer medicine for wife).

Findings: lower levels of morality at a young age vice versa - develops with age. Age 10 an individual has the foundations of moral thinking.

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Cognition: Social cognition

Intro: cognition is referring to mental proceses. 'social cognition' is referring to peoples understanding of what is going on in social interaction. Gudjonsson proposed that the way criminals attribute responsibility for their actions reflects their feelings of guilt about crimes they commit, this attribution will also affect the likelyhood of re-offending readniness to confess and responsiveness to rehabilitation. Labelling of a person as a criminal will result in 'self-fulfilling prophecy' and will be treated accordingly not only by the CJS but also their community.

Study: Jahoda suggested that a general belief that someone would engage in delinquent behaviour would lead to them engaging in delinquent behaviour. took place in Ghana:

some individuals may be more likely to be assumed to be perpetrators of crime. once this labell has been given to an individual they will change their behaviour to fit that expectation. (Self-fulfilling prophecy)

It was found that among the Ashanti in Western Africa, the names given to the male children would be associated to the days they were born, and it was a label that wednesday children would be more aggressive. it was found that 22% of all crimes were commited by wednesday born children as they lived up to their aggressive names. this also proves the cultural and social affect on a person as the expectations of the childs birth date molded their characteristics and likelyhood of crime.

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Biology: Brain dysfunction

Intro: There are 71 brain imaging studies that murderers, psychopaths etc have poorer functioning in the prefrontal cortex.

Study: Aim: To see if murders who have pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity(NGRI) show evidence of brain abnormalities using PET scans.

Experimental Group: 41 'normal' people as matched comparisons, Control Group: 41 'normal' people, matched to the experimental group on age, gender and schizophenia

- NGRI'S were found to have less activity in their frontal lobes & parietal areas, more activity in their occipital areas, and no difference in their temporal areas.

Raine's Conclusion:
-There were some diffrences in the brain functioning of the murderers and the control group, and that this study provides preliminary evidence that murders have diffrent brain functioning.

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Biology: Genes & seritonin

Intro: Serotonin: regulates impulsitivity and mood

Study: Aim: Explain behaviour of a large family from Netherlands where males were affected by sever learning difficulties and abnormal violent behaviour.

Method and Procedure: Case study on 5 males from Netherlands. Quan data collected from anlaysis of urine samples over a 24 hour period.

Results: Tests showed there was a deficit of the enzyme MAOA. There was a mutation on the "x" chromosome in each of the 5 males which is the gene responsible for the production of MAOA which is involved in serotonin metabolism. Impaired metabolism of serotonin means that there will be an excess of the neurotransmitter present in the brain.

Conclusion: Brunner believed too much serotonin may account for the violent and aggressive behaviour shown by the males in the family.

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Biology: Gender

Intro: There is a marker difference between men and women in their respective levels of offending

Study: Daly and Wilson

Aim: to find out if homicide rates would vary as a function of local life expectancy in Chicago, a city divided in 77 long standing community areas or neighbourhoods with relatively stable boundaries and social and economic characteristics

Method: A correlational study using survey data from police records, school records and local demographic records collected by population census

Procedure: the study examined local communities in Chicago which had lower than av. male life expectancies, from 54.3 to 77.3 years, and plotted various correlations

Key Results: life expectancy proved to be best predictor of neighbourhood-specific homicide rates. Ranged from 1.3 to 156 homicides per 100,000 people per annum. Neighbourhood-specific rate of absenteeism from school was negatively correlated with life expectancy.

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Evaluation: Upbringing


  • DF: 
  • L:
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  • DF:
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Individual vs Situational explanations: 

  • DF:
  • L:
  • DN:
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Evaluation: Cognition


  • CTP: 
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Individual vs Situational explanations: 

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  • SC:
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Evaluation: Biology


  • BD: 
  • G&S:
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Individual vs situtational explanations:

  • BD: 
  • G&S:
  • G:
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